This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania. In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century. This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950
PA Architecture Queen Anne Style 1880 – 1910
1. Abundance of decorative elements
2. Steeply pitched roof with irregular shape
3. Cross gables
4. Asymmetrical facade
5. Large partial or full width porch
6. Round or polygonal corner tower
7. Decorative spindlework on porches and gable trim
8. Projecting bay windows
9. Patterned masonry or textured wall surfaces including half timbering
10. Columns or turned post porch supports
11. Patterned shingles
12. Single pane windows, some with small decorative panes or stained glass
For many, the Queen Anne style typifies the architecture of the Victorian age. With its distinctive form, abundance of decorative detail, corner tower, expansive porches and richly patterned wall surfaces, the Queen Anne style is easy to identify. High style Queen Anne buildings are often considered local landmarks, ornate and showy attention getters. This style is present in communities across the country in numerous variations of form and detail. It was the most popular style for houses in the period from 1880 to 1900, but is often employed for large scale public buildings as well.
The style was first created and promoted by Richard Norman Shaw and other English architects in the late 19th century. The name refers to the Renaissance style architecture popular during the reign of England’s Queen Anne (1702-1714). Actually, the Queen Anne style is more closely related to the medieval forms of the preceding Elizabethan and Jacobean eras in England. The style became popular in the United States through the use of pattern books and the publishing of the first architectural magazine “The American Architect and Building News.” The Queen Anne style evolved from those early English designs to become a distinctly American style with numerous, sometimes regional variations. The use of three dimensional wood trim called spindlework was an American innovation made possible by the technological advances in the mass production of wood trim and the ease of improved railroad transport. While the Queen Anne style can take a variety of forms, certain key elements are commonly found. Queen Anne buildings almost always have a steep roof with cross gables or large dormers, an asymmetrical front façade, and an expansive porch with decorative wood trim. A round or polygonal front corner tower with a conical roof is a distinctive Queen Anne feature on many buildings of this style. Wall surfaces are usually highly decorative with variety of textures from shingles to half timbering, to panels of pebbles or bas relief friezes.